Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Witches of Oz - Definitely Not in Kansas Anymore...

(the review contains spoilers, but you might want to read it anyway)

Ooooh Witches of Oz. Where can I begin? I know very little of this production. My first impression was that it looked like it was made by a group of Oz Book fans who wanted to put a contemporary spin to the Oz books that wasn't as dark as Syfy's Tin Man.

The story goes like this:

Frank and Maude in the late 1800s move to Kansas with their daughter Dorothy Gale. Dorothy gets lost in a twister with her dog Toto. With Dorothy missing for days, her mother, Maude finds a crystal ball in her lost daughter's room that shows that Dorothy is fine. She is in a fantastical land called Oz. Through the crystal ball, Frank, Maude and their new daughter watch Dorothy as she remains ageless and has many heroic adventures in Oz.

Frank is inspired and writes a series of books about Dorothy's adventures. The stories are passed on down to Frank's grandson's Henry, who eventually moves to the Kansas house with his wife Emily after Frank and Maude have died.

In 1992, another twister hits. In the aftermath of that twister, Henry and Emily find a little girl asleep in front of their house. It's Dorothy.

Dorothy grows up to believe that all she has experience in Oz was a dream. She writes a series of Oz sequel books that she feels are based off of her grandfather's classical books (which are now in public domain). She travels to New York to get her series of books published. She is not in Kansas anymore.

Thus begins our story, which I think borrows a little bit from Frank Beddor's Alice in Wonderland reimagining, Looking Glass Wars. That one needs to be a movie already.

I was immediately pulled into the story, though layered and twisted it can be. By twisted, I don't mean sick and nasty, but crazy and windy. Like a twister. There are a whole lot of twists in this 2 1/2 hour Oz outing.

Immediately, I fell in love with this new Dorothy, played here by Paulie Rojas. Paulie has these big wide expressive anime eyes that go perfect with this character. She is sweet, pleasant and very very easy to love.

Some big names make some appearances. Lord of the Rings alumnis Sean Astin and Billy Boyd appear. Christopher Loyd makes an appearance as The Wizard of Oz himself.

Mia Sara makes an appearance as Langwidere, kinda. Langwidere is a Princess who has possession of many heads (Mombi from the Return to Oz movie was given this character trait). Mia Sara plays one of the heads. Sadly, she doesn't appear in the movie as often as someone like her should. I mean, come on, she was in Legend AND played Harley Quin in Birds of Prey

There are also many cameos from Oz characters that are rarely seen on film. Off the top of my head I remember seeing Ozma, Jack Pumpkinhead, Tic Tok, The Witch of the East in her full glory and Locasta the other good witch. 

I felt that the movie was borrowing a little bit from Gregory Macguire's Wicked in their characterization of The Witch of the West, but oddly enough, that drew me in even more. A major plus for me was that her look was based off of how L. Frank Baum describes her in the books while still retaining her iconic imagery that was established by MGM.

The movie is not without it's flaws, but the spirit of the piece and the pacing of the film really kept me captivated. Though the story can be a bit topsy turvy at times, that just means I get to watch it again and uncover more layers, and I love a movie that lets me do that.

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